updates connected to the book Idylls for a Bare Stage
& to performances of the Idylls
& other initiatives related to the Art of the Poetic Monologue

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Happenings at the Harman, Wednesday 3/20 at Noon

 If you're near downtown D.C. during the week, please join us (and bring your lunch)!

"Perfect place to set up shop."
"Have you seen the bloom of late?"
"Sort of thing we did for instants on the beat during that jazz number."

Mindscape spills into the theater space 
as actor and audience collaborate to create “a shared imagining,” 
something uniquely possible to live theatre.

Idylls Showcase

Happenings at the Harman Lunchtime Performances
 hosted by Shakespeare Theatre Company
Wednesday, March 20th at Noon

Stephen Mead, “A Street-Merchant Imagines his Riches to Come”
                                    (After an anonymous author of The Arabian Nights)

Harlie Sponaugle, “A Mother Feels her Estranged Daughter’s Labor Pains”
                                    (vide Colette)

Genna Davidson, “A Dancer Stretches her Legs”

The Forum in Sidney Harman Hall at  610 F St. NW, Washington, D.C
"Happenings lunchtime performances start at noon 
Bring your lunch and we will bring your shot of culture!"
Remember:  All performances are FREE and reservations are not required. Performances will last less than an hour.
 Special thanks to Hannah Hessel at STC for having us.

Stephen Mead/Street-Merchant
"just a tray of glassware..."

Stephen Mead trained as an actor at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Besides appearing in many stage productions, he has worked as a drama adviser to Goldcrest Films UK and written for Channel4 (TV). Stephen has made a specialty of DRAMATIC RECITATIONS (from memory) from the works of DICKENS, EDGAR ALLAN POE and other 19th-century authors. These bring poems and prose by these writers to vivid life without costume, make-up, lights or scenery. Most 19th-century literature was written to be heard as well as read, and Stephen Mead’s enthralling renditions of these pieces have gripped audiences in the UK and the US since 1987. Stephen has worked for London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Arts Collection Fund, the National Trust (UK), Richmond Adult College, Missenden Abbey Buckinghamshire, among many other venues. He has appeared on the bill of the world-famous Player’s Theatre in London singing Victorian music-hall. Stephen had the honour of being invited toperform his one-man adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” at the Dickens Festival in Dickens’ home town Rochester, Kent, in the historic Guildhall three years in a row. He also performed a tour of Switzerland under the auspices of the Anglo-Swiss society. His appearances in the Washington DC area include All's Well that Ends Well for the Maryland Shakespeare Festival, Romeo and Juliet for Vpstart Crow Theatre Company, and Medieval StoryLand, a hit at the 2012 Capital Fringe Festival;  he is also as an entertainer at local hotels, and has performed programs of his Dickens recitations including his one man show version of A Christmas Carol to acclaim at venues in DC and Virginia.  With the Idylls and SiGiLPAL, he's on his way to CapFringe in summer 2013 with Murder on the Bare Stage (see October entry).

Harlie Sponaugle/ Mother
"Quietly, but it's begun."

Harlie Sponaugle has been a singer all her life and several years ago was guided to study acting in a serous way. Her singing voice has been described as the Steinway of sopranos, seamless powerful, warm and full on the top and bright and clear on the bottom. Whether performing opera or art songs, or a play or musical, she strives to stir the souls of her audience by painting compelling pictures that speak straight to the heart. Her roles in plays and musicals include the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet (VPStart Crow); Grandma in Claudie Hukill (Venus Theatre), King Duncan and the Medicine Woman in Macbeth (Impossible Theatre Co.); and Florence Foster Jenkins in Souvenir (for the Young Hearts Foundation). Operatic and other singing roles include Amelia in Un ballo in maschera (Repertory Opera of Washington), ensemble in Regina (with Patti LuPone at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theatre), Donna Anna in Don Giovanni (Riverbend Opera), and the Washington area premieres  of John Kander’s The Letter from Sullivan Ballou and Ricky Ian Gordon’s Orpheus and Eudice for soprano, clarinet and piano. She earned her Masters of Music at George Mason University  and completed the Honors Conservatory program at the Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts. Her next appearance will be as Lady Macbeth in Verdi’s opera Macbeth with the Riverbend Opera Company in late May of 2013, a challenge she looks forward to with great excitement and wonder. More info at www.HarlieSponaugle.com.

Genna Davidson/Dancer
"turning and swirling, veiling, unveiling..."

Genna Davidson is a professional actress in Washington, DC. She was most recently seen in dog & pony dc's A Killing Game; the Hub Theatre's Big Love (ensemble/fiddler); and Tattooed Potato's The Nightmare Dreamer. In addition to acting, Genna has been flirting with puppetry for a number of years and is producing and collaborating on a Wit's End Puppets original: The Amazing and Marvelous Cabinets of Kismet. Look for it at the Mead Theatre Lab in April and May, 2013. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, in 2008 with a BA in Theatre Performance. 

About the Show...

All three pieces showcased today represent the development of a theatrical approach based on poet and playwright Magus Magnus’ years of engagement with the form of the Idyll - poetic monologue designed for performance. Such a practice comes out of interpreting the Idyll, originated by the ancient Greek poet Theocritus, as a “shared imagining” (with reference to its roots in earlier Mime and its etymology related to words such as Idea, Ideal, Idol, Images, and Eidolon). The actual medium of the Idyll form is imagination, and the performer works in cooperation and with the goodwill of the audience to foster the imagining of the piece.  Indeed, audience members themselves are encouraged to become conscious of this process, whereby they notice themselves engaging a communal mental space – together, we enter a landscape of the imagination.

A full treatment of the Theocritean Idyll as reconceived in its relevance and possibility for contemporary theater (not least with respect to what theater and theater alone can still do amidst the worldwide sensory bombardment of screens and media) forms the introduction to Magnus’ Idylls for a Bare Stage ( twentythreebooks, 2011).  This introduction was republished just this month as an essay titled “Imagination and Performance” in the journal Nerve Lantern: Axon of Performance Literature.  Nerve Lantern

Deepest gratitude to the three featured performers, Genna Davidson, Harlie Sponaugle, and Stephen Mead, all of whom have given a great deal of sustained time and effort to engage the process, and contributed their theatrical creativity, insights, experience, and expertise in collaborative development of a performance style effective for the Idylls form.


Truly this month has been Idylls of March
(if you'll forgive the bad punning - I'm trying, but failing, to resist)

The Harman event has been in preparation for months and, as mentioned previously, we've evolved our approach to process and presentation of the Idylls form, based on ongoing conceptual work, extensive rehearsals, and with gleanings from the Power of the Poetic Monologue workshops associated with this project and SiGiLPAL. As always, first we release the power of words through various exercises designed to bypass inhibition and analysis, then we work within the realm of the imagination. It is with this latter practice, the imagining, that we've of late involved ourselves with more precise, detailed work - to a degree way beyond usual theatrical and acting approaches.

Towson University's Geo-aesthetics Conference inserted itself along the way (see previous blog entry), thanks to its organizer Dr. John Murungi there, Rose Cherubin for bringing it to my attention, and Anne Ashbaugh there with her Penelope Weaving lecture right before our rendition of her Leda Waving (through the air-borne feathers of Zeus), plus the supportive presence of Christophe Casamassima - again, proof in concept, that the Idylls practice is portable, theatre that can be done anywhere:  we were in a tight place, and so had Natalie do her Leda on a table, and Stephen emerged from a corner of the conference room to make of it a market stall.

And so, here's what will be noticeable at the Harman, out of a honed approach, to the point of actually blocking in the imagination, working in detail and with specifics on the invisible -

conscious work on three levels of reality: 
1. venue space and performer, as they are
2. imagined setting and embodied character
3. the vivid inner life of the character

...in keeping with the idea of art as having the potential to be about our penetration and uses of reality and understanding reality...

The Idyll form intends - for performer and audience alike - an exploration and conscious experience of at least three layers of mind/world interaction and mixture, triple-tiered awareness (the bare theater space and unadorned performer as first level of reality, inclusive of audience, the senses, and a sense of presence; the embodied character and imagined setting, scene, objects or atmosphere as second level; and the inner life of the character, whether memory, anticipation, or fantastical projection as third). 

Or else, as exemplified in the opening Idyll of next Wednesday's Harman show - the Street-Merchant Imagining his Riches to Come - it's all a genie pouring out of Aladdin's lamp.

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